By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter
CHEHALIS – Instead of going to trial next week for rape and kidnapping, a 25-year-old Salkum resident was sentenced to 60 days in jail and given credit for 60 days already served.
Joel L. Kaech was arrested on Jan. 31 after a 32-year-old woman reportedly ran away from Kaech at the skate park across Harrison Avenue in Centralia and made contact with police.
She spoke of she and a mutual friend being picked up by Kaech in Longview, and Kaech kicking the friend out of the car and then an unspecified period of time in which the two drove to several places in Lewis County, during which she was sexually assaulted.
Kaech was initially charged with two counts of first-degree rape, one count of first-degree kidnapping, one count of felony harassment and possession of methamphetamine.
Yesterday, all the charges but the drug offense were dismissed at the request of the Lewis County Prosecutor’s Office.
Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher said they want to prosecute the case, but they’ve lost touch with the victim.
While she was initially cooperative, they can’t find her, Meagher said.
“We just couldn’t do it, and we were up against speedy trial (rules),” he said.
The charges were dismissed without prejudice, meaning they can be refiled at a later date, Meagher said.
He spoke of the pressures placed on such victims, that make it difficult to follow through with the criminal proceedings. He also noted how keeping connected with victims is something the office spends a tremendous amount of time on.
“I hope she’s okay, and I hope she checks in with us,” he said.
Kaech pleaded guilty yesterday in Lewis County Superior Court to possession of methamphetamine and was ordered to make monthly payments on $2,300 worth of fines. He’s already served his 60-day sentence.
The judge found chemical dependency contributed to the crime and also ordered him to undergo an evaluation and comply with treatment. Kaech will be on community custody for 12 months.
He remains confined in the Lewis County Jail without bail today however for something described on the jail’s roster as “other agency hold.”
For background, read “Rape investigation: Salkum man held with no bail, no charges” from Monday February 1, 2016, here